The Constitution provides that primary education is mandatory in Iraq. In a May 2017 report, UNICEF noted that education in Iraq had progressed remarkably over the last decade, with enrolment in primary education increasing at about 4.1 % per year. In November 2018, UNICEF presented the results of a survey on children’s wellbeing in Iraq, according to which 92 % of children are enrolled in primary school. Over half of the children from poorer backgrounds complete their primary education. Less than a quarter of children from poorer backgrounds complete secondary education. The lowest enrolment rates are found in the southern governorates. In spite of the progress made, half of the public schools need rehabilitation and one in three schools run multiple shifts to accommodate for the demand in education.
Although girls’ enrolment grew at all levels, UNICEF still notes a large gender gap. Factors like early marriage, family concerns and traditional views on the role of women in society play a role in explaining this difference. Equal access for girls has been a particular a challenge in rural areas.
In conflict-affected governorates, such as Salah al-Din and Diyala, more than 90 % of school-age children were left out of the education system as of 2017. Children faced numerous barriers to accessing education, including attacks on schools and specific targeting of teachers and school personnel. Other barriers included the lack of schools nearby, the use of schools as shelters by IDPs, and as detention centres by ISIL, the costs of transportation and of school supplies, and IDPs’ and refugees’ lack of identification documents.
UNOCHA reported in December 2018, that 32 % of IDP children who live in camps were not in school; 26 % of those out of camps had no access to formal education.
Compared to rural areas and small towns, general requirements for quality education are often met in Baghdad. According to International Organization for Migration (IOM), writing in 2016 for the governorate of Basrah, 80 % of IDPs had access to education and the rest said it was too expensive. In addition to that, fewer girls attend schools in southern rural areas due to poverty and the strength of traditional attitudes toward education.
In the KRI, education is compulsory until the age of 15. The inflow of IDPs has put pressure on the KRI educational system, especially in urban areas, in some cases leading schools to operate in two or three shifts. A 2015 World Bank publication stated that a large majority of IDP children in the KRI remained out of school because of economic considerations; the language barrier; the lack of school infrastructure, teachers and school materials; complex administrative procedures for school enrolment and other socio-economic reasons.
As identity card is needed to enrol in public school, this prevented many children from accessing education. In general, access to education of certain minority groups, especially Roma and Iraqi of African descent, is limited.
In addition, UNICEF remarked that children most at risk of being excluded from school were girls due to safety considerations, poor children, children with uneducated mothers, and children with disabilities.
The general deficiencies in the educational system, and the limited opportunities for education cannot as such be considered persecution, as they are not the result of a third party’s deliberate actions. However, in the case of deliberate restrictions on access to education, it should be assessed whether it amounts to persecution.
The denial of documentation, which also leads to no access to basic education, may be linked to belonging to a minority (see Religious and ethnic minorities, and stateless persons) or perceived link to ISIL (see Persons perceived to be associated with ISIL). See also Children born under ISIL who lack civil documentation.
Not all children would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution in relation to deliberate restrictions on access to education. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: (lack of) identification documents, ethno-religious background, gender (girls are at a higher risk), disabilities, age, perception of traditional gender roles in the family, poor socio-economic situation of the child and the family, area of origin, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Where well-founded fear of persecution is substantiated, the individual circumstances of the child should be taken into account to determine whether or not a nexus to a reason for persecution can be established. For example, in the case of denied identity documentation due to belonging to a minority group, nationality and/or race may apply.
See other topics concerning children:
2.17.6. Education of children and girls in particular
 CJEU, Mohamed M’Bodj v État belge, C-542/13, judgment of 18 December 2014, Grand Chamber (M’Bodj), paras. 35-36. [back to text]